I would like to clarify and add some information regarding the article ‘Asphalt Plant Staying, says Silveri’ published last week.
There are two separate operations behind the Cheakamus Crossing development. Although both businesses are owned by the same person, Mr. Frank Silveri, the issues are different, but they have a huge common problem as a health hazard to the people and the environmental damages done to the lands and water.
Firstly I would like to discuss the quarry, operating under the business name Whistler Aggregates.
The permit to operate this Whistler quarry is issued by the Province of B.C., Ministry of Energy and Mines and specifies the work system and the reclamation program, as well as the conditions for protection of the land surface and watercourses, etc. This permit was issued on Aug. 19, 2004.
In 2009 it was reported to the Chief Inspector, from Ministry of Energy and Mines, responsible for overseeing this quarry that an asphalt plant is operating illegally on the ‘mining footprint’ (a piece of land covered by the permit from the provincial Ministry of Energy and Mines). This could have been deemed ‘gross negligence’ and the quarry be shut down by the province. But Mr. Silveri renegotiated his provincial permit, reduced the ‘mining footprint’ and removed the section of the land where the asphalt plant is sitting from the footprint and continued operating both businesses, the quarry under the provincial permit and the asphalt plant under the Whistler Municipality in 2010. In the year when the Cheakamus Crossing community starting to move into their new homes.
It is the quarry operation of Whistler Aggregates business that is to operate under the conditions set out in the permit issued by the province. I will specify only a few:
Disposal of fuels, chemicals or reagents which cannot be returned to the manufacturer/supplier to be disposed of as directed by the Chief Inspector in compliance with municipal, regional, provincial and federal status;
Good drilling and blasting practices shall be used to minimize ground vibration and air shock noise;
Dust generated by the crushing and screening plant and any other onsite operations shall be controlled at source points by water sprays or other suitable means.
There is no end date in the permit issued in 2004 mentioned. There is no year 2017 stated. After a meeting with the Chief Inspector from the Ministry of Mining, in Victoria, B.C., in October 2012, it seems that as long as there is rock to mine, the quarry can operate at its current location without any official public input.
Nevertheless, the quarry can be closed by the Chief Inspector, Ministry of Energy and Mines if the quarry is found to be in ‘gross negligence.’ Dust and noise are not considered gross negligence. But the Chief Inspector is very willing to receive reports, when the conditions outlined in the permit are not followed.
Now about the asphalt plant, operating under the business name Alpine Paving.
Bigger equipment was set up this summer (on wheels) in the same location replacing the old one and started to operate in August. The fumes are again in the air of the Cheakamus Crossing’s community and many Whistler areas as well. After the unfortunate (and unbelievable) November 2011 judicial decision, it seems that our new council gave up on this issue. Although, the article correctly pointed out that the relocation of the asphalt plant was one of the top priorities in the election campaign.
We are in the 21st century, we now have more knowledge about environmental hazards. There are big protests when the land and water is endangered.
Here is more info what it means to have an asphalt plant in Whistler.
Asphalt plants mix gravel and sand with crude oil derivatives to make the asphalt used to pave roads, highways, and parking lots. These plants release chemicals into the air during production each year, including many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde, cadmium, hexane, phenol, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and other very fine condensed particulates. These toxins are released into the air as the asphalt is produced, loaded into trucks, hauled from the plant site, and stored in stockpiles. They are not visible nor have any odour.
They are released when the Alpine Paving trucks are going through the middle of Whistler on Highway 99.
Exposure to these substances may cause respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, severe irritation of the skin, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Health effects depend upon duration and amount of exposure as well as an individual’s sensitivity to the chemicals.
It was anecdotally noticed in a door-to-door survey of residents living within a half mile of the asphalt plant that 45 per cent reported a deterioration of their health, which began after the plant opened. The most frequent health problems cited were high blood pressure, sinus problems, headaches and shortness of breath.
Stagnant air and local weather patterns often increase the level of exposure to Whistlerites. The air in Whistler is often not moving for long periods of time, held by the low cloud. The air flow in Whistler is mostly from the south, the asphalt is located at the south end of Whistler.
There are options to correct this situation, but they must have the political will behind them. For example, if Whistler became attractive to mobile asphalt owners, the asphalt producing equipment could be set up at temporary commercial areas, the necessary work for the roads, highways and parking lots could be done in a timely fashion and the asphalt operation problem would be gone. The improvement to the Highway 99 before the 2010 Winter Olympics is a good example.
It seems that hoping for Mr. Silveri to have a change of heart is not an option. All of Whistler would benefit if the current asphalt plant by Cheakamus Crossing is not operating from this location.